LET YOUR CHILDREN LEARN RATHER THAN BE EDUCATED
Dee Chadwick
27 Apr 2020
There are very many children currently not attending school. Parents are, sometimes with frustration, uncertainty, or a whole host of negative feelings attempting to home-school or home educate their offspring. Not an easy task, especially if you are simultaneously working from home, or if you have children with a wide spread of age or need.

DON’T BEAT YOURSELF UP  –

Can I begin by saying that I have run this piece past a couple of friends who are still teaching primary aged children. I received a thumbs up from them.

Leave education for the school setting where it is necessary to tick those boxes and take those SATs. Instead aim for helping your children to learn. Here, I am thinking in particular of children of Primary School age. Many Secondary Schools seem to have established remote teaching, remote teaching support. Great, providing that families have the necessary IT equipment and internet connection. Whilst most of us have laptops, smart phones, tablets aplenty, there do remain families for whom this is not so. Often, the children of such families are the ones in need of a continuation of support, if not additional support. I wonder how many are taking up the option offered by schools to continue to attend?

WE HAVE MIRRORING OF WHAT HAPPENS IN SCHOOLS...

Or not –and my suggestion would be to go for that ’or not’, especially if your child’s school hasn’t shared with you their approach to working with maths, spelling and writing. Maybe your child is struggling with a specific concept and you are too, as you did things very differently when you were at school. OK, you sort of managed to get by without fully understanding if you have supported with homework, but going solo is a whole different ball game.

One-one teaching whether face to face or bringing others into the equation via such as Skype and Zoom is flipping intense for a primary aged child. I worked with this age group on a one-one basis for many years. It was very much a few minutes of ‘teaching’, chat or ‘play’, have a go at what we had covered, further diversion, talk through what they had done and preferably ask them to tell me how to do it! It’s not what you do, it’s the way that you do it, and getting this role reversal of them being the teacher could be great fun. Some even reflected my mannerisms and use of words back to me as they adopted the role.

In a whole class, or even a small group setting, no child is ‘on task’ for more than a few minutes at a time. This is why they often have to ask – either their buddy or the teacher – they had simply done an age appropriate switch off. Working one-one needs to be built on a similar model with a mix of activities – some mental, some physical, some seemingly simply chatting, though I cannot emphasise enough  that children develop so much simply by actually being listened to. Researchers have shown this to be more than just a gut feeling of mine.

Back to the way that I worked – we would often have a book open in front of us. We had probably begun by talking about what we had read last time, done some shared reading, ie involving giving difficult words rather than making the process one of decoding words rather than actually reading. Then, we would have been chatting about something mentioned in that book, or have ambled away from the book, maybe with the child offering different beginnings, middles or endings; changing the characters – simply encouraging their imagination to lead them. It is also a good opportunity for a child to talk about any worries, concerns and many of them will have these at present though may not feel that they have the opportunity to speak about them. They can be so protective of parental feelings!

HOW ELSE TO ENCOURAGE LEARNING RATHER THAN BEING EDUCATED?

It’s that important difference between learning and being educated. There is so much that has been squeezed out of our children’s school curriculum by ‘the powers that be’ – they are educated. Rather than allowing the gut feeling of the teachers themselves to have free rein – the proviso here obviously being that said teachers are effective practitioners able to fly by the seat of their pants.

I remember when I first began teaching, very much before a regimented, set curriculum. As ever, I had prepared what I was going to teach, what I hoped that the children would learn. Then a child came in with a bird’s nest. They all gathered round – and it became our work for the day. Maths and language tasks were produced on the wing – pun totally intended there. OK, lunch time did involve me rushing to a nearby wooded area – and (with permission) hacking off lots of not too thick branches and a pile of twigs and bracken. Having studied the many mini-beasts that came with these, the afternoon was then spent making their own shelters, to meet certain specifications that they were given. A whole day passed with enjoyment, sharing, team work – and lots and lots of learning but not a work sheet or a computer in sight. The children went home with an apology from me for mucky PE kits – but not one parental complaint came back!

WHICH SKILLS WILL HELP?

OK, they may be mooting with the idea of re-opening schools, but until that time why not endeavour to support your children with developing skills which will support the work that they do in school? Rather than trying to continue where they left off in class. Especially as, sure as eggs are eggs, when they return there will be huge differences in the amount of work covered anyway and schools will have to make a judgement call about just where they pitch their re-start. Some parents will have stoically stuck to what has been suggested. Some will have gone overboard with buying in workbooks. Some will have recruited others to do that distance work with their child/children. Then others will have liberally sprinkled their child’s day with ‘field trips’ into the garden, and practical lessons including baking, cooking, crafting – the things generally nudged out of most school life, though essential life skills. Others will have liberally sprinkled the time with INSET days and I leave that to your imagination.

I am referring to skills such as those practical ones, which involve reading and maths skills, and putting these skills to use – as we do in ‘real life’.....

Provided you have a garden or a plant pot or two, seed growing and learning about what we eat and where it comes from.

What it takes to run a home – and to take an active – rather than a nominal – role in this. Something about which I feel strongly.

Add in an ability to empathise with other family members who also have their tasks to do and that sometimes you will have to wait. Patience really is a great virtue – even though it may make me sound an old biddy to say so.

Then we have resilience. This is a very under-rated quality, one which will be supported by such activities and one which I covered in a previous blog.  

So many teenagers have been heard to complain that they are bored during this weird old time of ours. This despite the majority having access to so much information, entertainment, communication. A way of being that leads to instant gratification. They have always been used to this. Their spare time as a youngster could well have been filled with after school clubs, out of school lessons of one variety or another. They were kept occupied.

A lot of the grown up world reflects this busyness, but there are also, for many, times when there is nothing to obviously fill their time if it is not handed to them on a plate. Woe betide if there is a power cut and they are unable to recharge their many devices. This is where resilience learnt as a child will serve them well. They will happily resort to their own company and curl up with a good old fashioned book or magazine, converse with people or simply allow their mind and imagination to be put to full use.

Teach your children to care – for family, both nuclear and extended as well as friends and those around who do not have the same benefits as them. I have to say that the pictures I have used were brought to me by two children who live opposite to me. They have only recently moved here, but, following a brief shouted chat from my bedroom window to their garden, these pictures were brought to my door. I have also been included by the delivery of a piece of birthday cake – made by the birthday girl. She and her brother nip round to wave from the end of my drive. Such a wonderful way to learn to be a caring adult – by developing such positive roots at an early age.

Add in a dose of boredom. Developing a positive attitude to having nothing obvious to do is best developed at an early age. I guess that those of my generation have the advantage here as we so often had to fathom out how to fill our time. We had only a couple of hours of suitable television programmes for children - if we had a television.  A time to appreciate the things that REALLY do matter in life for each person, each family, this planet of ours?

 

So – by not home schooling or home educating your child/children, rather encouraging them to learn at their pace and simultaneously develop those often neglected skills, you are giving them skills for life and living. Skills for when they go back to school, as well as for the rest of their lives. Just like those seeds they planted, you will see them, with lots of TLC, grow into beautiful plants in the future. They will have had the opportunity to allow their individuality to blossom and flourish. You could well have given them a very precious gift in these unsettled times of ours.

At the very least, don’t beat yourself up – all that any of us can ever do is the best that we can. As a teacher, I always say that I learnt so very much from the children I was privileged to work with. You could well find out that you will do the same.

Take care. Keep you and yours safe and well.

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